• There will be a distinct Cowboys flavour to the Bulls Masters cricket squad taking on a Charters Towers Invitational XI during the Goldfield Ashes in Charters Towers on Australia Day. Co-captain Johnathan Thurston and head coach Paul Green are set to join some of the state’s best ever cricketers in the exhibition Twenty20 match. It will be the third straight year the Masters have played at the Goldfield Ashes and their lineup will feature former international pacemen Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz and all-rounder Andrew Symonds. “We all love what Johnathan has done for Queensland and the Cowboys over the past decade and I think sport fans across the region will enjoy seeing him trying his hand at another sport on what is a great long weekend in the Towers,” Bulls Masters managing director Jimmy Maher said. “A couple of years back we saw a Men of League team play in Townsville and JT showed plenty of cricket skills there, so I think he’ll be able to hold his own amongst us old fellas.” JT says he was the leading run scorer for his club team in under-13s and 14s with a highest score of 87. The exhibition game will start around 3pm at York Street on Sunday.
• Also in town for the Goldfield Ashes will be two Cowboys life members, Paul Bowman and Aaron Payne, who will be part of a lineup called the Jungle Patrol. They’ve recruited current Cowboys forward Scott Bolton and player development manager Dean Payne for the three-day carnival. “Bear” made three 50s without being dismissed last year so lots will be expected of him with the bat this weekend.
• After a heavy week of training, both the NRL and NYC squads have been given three days off, starting on Saturday. The first trial match for the under-20s is now just over a week away – they take on the Northern Pride at Cairns Brothers on Saturday week.
• Brent Tate has revealed how much he misses having his good friend Ash Graham alongside him during pre-season. The winger retired last year and is now part of the club’s high performance unit as NYC strength and conditioning coach. “I’m really missing Ash actually,” Tatey said with a smile. “It’s with a heavy heart that I see him with the 20s.”
• It’s been a big month for birthdays in our NYC squad: Hayden Crowley kicked it off by turning 20 on 5 January followed by Corey Jensen on 8 January, David Munro on 9 January, Jack Kelleher on 17 January and Andrew Niemoeller on 19 January. Corey and Jack are now into their 20s, while David and Andrew, who are close mates, are both 19.
• Former Queensland State of Origin forward Michael Crocker was a visitor to Cowboys HQ this week. Recently retired from the NRL after playing for Melbourne, South Sydney and the Roosters, the back-rower now works for the Rugby League Players’ Association and had a chat to both the NRL and NYC squads. He also had the chance to catch up with former Storm teammate Dallas Johnson, who is now working at Cowboys HQ.
• Around 100 young footballers will soon receive a letter inviting them to part of the Cowboys Academy program, sponsored by the local North Queensland Toyota Dealers, in 2014. Aged between 13 and 17, the academy players get the chance to have face-to-face training with Cowboys staff as part of their season of activities aimed at further developing their rugby league skills. The academies are based in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Brisbane. Induction days will be held throughout February.
• Two Fox Sports crews have been at Cowboys HQ this week filming segments for a couple of their upcoming NRL programs. Among their interviewees were our two co-captains, James Tamou, Brent Tate, Ray Thompson, Lachlan Coote, Cameron King, the Sims brothers and coach Paul Green. We’ll let you know when you can see the results on TV.
• Gavin Cooper had to be excused from training on Wednesday morning so he could be the Cowboys’ representative at the NRL Auckland Nines launch in Sydney. To ensure he didn’t miss the 9.30am start, Coops had to fly from Townsville to Brisbane on Tuesday night and stay overnight before catching a 6am flight from Brisbane to Sydney on Wednesday. He was back in Townsville late on Wednesday afternoon after doing the club proud.